Attorney general takes ‘garage slave’ sentence to appeal court


newslatestThe attorney general has agreed to ask the court of appeal to impose a tougher sentence on the owner of an ice-cream van business who carried out a series of violent attacks on a disabled man.

Disabled activists have expressed frustration that the offences carried out against Craig Kinsella were not treated as disability hate crime by Sheffield crown court last month.

Although the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had recognised the offences as hate crime, its own barrister failed to follow instructions to ask the judge to treat the attacks as motivated at least partly by disability-related hostility.

If the judge had treated the offences as disability hate crime, he would have been forced to increase the sentences under section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Kinsella, who has learning difficulties, was kept as a slave in a Sheffield garage in “squalid” conditions by three members of the Rooke family, beaten on a daily basis for more than five weeks, and forced to work and scavenge for food.

South Yorkshire police also failed to treat the offences against Kinsella as disability hate crime.

David Rooke was jailed last month for six-and-a-half years, after admitting a charge of false imprisonment and five counts of actual bodily harm. The 44-year-old was also ordered to pay £15,000 compensation to Kinsella.

Rooke’s wife Donna, aged 40, admitted a charge of battery and was jailed for four months, while their son Jamie, 19, pleaded guilty to five counts of actual bodily harm and a charge of affray, and was given a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence.

Now the Conservative attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has agreed to refer the sentence imposed on David Rooke to the court of appeal. Three judges will hear the appeal, which will probably take place next month.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general said the court of appeal could be asked to use section 146 to justify an increased sentence.

But she said: “The attorney hasn’t formulated his arguments yet. At the moment all options remain open to him. It is not appropriate to comment before the case.

“He has taken advice, read the papers, and he believes the court of appeal should be given the opportunity to look at it.”

Meanwhile, another leading disabled activist has spoken of her frustration with the way the criminal justice system is addressing disability hate crime.

Ruth Bashall, who has worked and campaigned in the area for more than 10 years, said she believed there was a lack of resources to address disability hate crime within the police.

She said: “There is a reluctance to identify hate crime and the number of successful prosecutions has gone down.

“The culture within the police is still that disability hate crime doesn’t exist.”

She said there were also problems within the CPS, and among judges, who receive “absolutely no training whatsoever”.

She added: “There is a lack of joined-up thinking between police, CPS, barristers, the judges. Sometimes it is downright bad communication but it actually stems from the fact that they do not fully understand what disability hate crime is.”

Bashall said progress on disability hate crime had “stalled”, while the issue was not on the Home Office’s political agenda.

She said there was a need for better training, and to identify lower-level cases as well as the more serious offences.

6 February 2014